A GP education programme has cut rates of antibiotic dispensing by 4% without affecting hospital admissions or costs, a UK study has found.
The study in nearly 500,000 patients in Wales found a programme of seminars, online learning and practicing consulting skills for GPs reduced the rate of oral antibiotics dispensed to their patients by 14.1 items per 1,000 registered patients.
On the other hand, control practices providing usual care increased their dispensing rates by 12.1 items per 1000 patients – a net difference of 26.1.
There were no significant differences between intervention and control practices in admissions to hospital or re-consultations for common infections within seven days of the first consultation.
The mean cost of the educational programme was £2,923 per practice, and there was a reduction of about £830 per year in antibiotic dispensing costs for an average intervention practice.
Study lead Professor Christopher Butler, professor of primary care medicine at Cardiff University and a GP in the city, said: ‘If the benefit was maintained over time, then the investment in the intervention would be recouped within 3.5 years.'
He added that many clinicians in the intervention group reported ‘increased insight into patients' expectations, ultimately contributing to improved clinician-patient rapport'.
BMJ 2012, published online 2 February